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Monday, August 25, 2008

Whale Shark - teeth of the largest living fish

The whale shark has over 4,000 teeth. Each tooth is only 3mm long.
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Chondrichthyes
Subclass: Elasmobranchii
Order: Orectolobiformes
Family: Rhincodontidae
Genus: Rhincodon
Species: R. typus
Common Name: Whale Shark

Teeth minute, about 300 rows in each jaw. An individual tooth has a single, hooked cusp. Teeth appear to play no role in feeding. Instead, it is a suction filter feeder - it sucks in a huge volume of water and plankton. The water is strained through spongy tissues supported by cartilaginous rods between the whale shark's gill arches. The plankton, trapped in the gill rakers, is then swallowed. Sometimes larger fishes - such as mackerels, anchovies, and tunas - are sucked in as well. A whale shark can filter 1.5 million liters (400,000 gallons) of water an hour when feeding. The whale shark has unique denticles (tooth-like scales structures), each with an extremely strong central keel, no lateral keels, and a tri-lobed rear margin. It would appear that the denticles are hydrodynamically important in its pelagic lifestyle.

About Whale Sharks:
The whale shark is the largest living fish today. Maximum size is thought to be 20m. The smallest free-living individuals are from 55cm (21.7 inches) long. Sexual maturity in both sexes may not occur until the sharks are over 9m in length. Age estimates for whale sharks are as high as 60 years, but no one really knows how long this species lives.
Based on the study of a single egg recovered off the coast of Mexico in 1956, it was believed to be oviparous, but the capture of a female in July 1996 which was pregnant with 300 pups indicates that they are ovoviviparous. In 1995, an 11-meter female whale shark was harpooned off the eastern coast of Taiwan and 300 fetal specimens, ranging in length from 42 to 63cm, were taken from the two uteri. This discovery proved that the species is a live bearer, with an ovoviviparous mode of development. The egg-capsules of this whale shark were amber colored, with a smooth texture, and possessed a respiratory fissure (opening) on each side.


Fred Collinsworth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Fred Collinsworth said...

Whoa! My God, whale sharks have 4000 teeth?! No wonder because they are big. Imagine if people have 4000 teeth, how many times they will undergo tooth extraction. Hehehe…

Fred Collinsworth

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